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The following sketch of his career, in this country, and of his labors as an author and editor is taken from a recent number of Case and Comment, published by the Lawyer's Co-Operative Publishing Company, of Rochester, with whom he was engaged until his last illness :
His birth-place was in Canada, but while still a minor he came to the United States. He studied law for a time in New York City; taught school in Pennsylvanla; enlisted in the Mexican war, and, in the exciting days of 1849–50, went to California, where he took his share in the vicissitudes of the “ Argonauts." His professional career on the Pacific coast is told in a little catalogue published in 1891 by the Bancroft-Whitney Co., as follows:
“ Robert Desty, who had read law in New York, been admitted to the bar and acted as District Attorney in one of the northern counties of California, came to San Francisco in 1868, and did his first editorial work on 'Parker's California Digest,' which was published in 1869.
“The faculty for turning out good work with unusual rapidity led to an engagement with Hon. M. M. Estee, who was then completing his work on Pleading Under the Codes.' Parker's Supplement to‘Hittell's General Laws,' was intrusted to Desty, and the Supplement to "Parker's California Digest' was published under Mr. Desty's name in 1875.
“ In 1874 his 'California Citations' appeared. This book, the first which attempted to show the value of cases cited by the Court, has been followed by similar works in Massachusetts, Illinois, Indiana and others, covering a portion of the ground in many States, it was also followed by Mr. Desty's 'Federal Citations' in 1878. In 1875 his · Federal Procedure' was issued, forming the first volume of the Pony Series, and founding Mr. Desty's national reputation. This has passed through seven editions, with a sale of over twelve thousand copies. In 1879 his treatise on Shipping and Admiralty, and on the Federal Constitution, were published in the same series. Others followed in rapid succession - California Constitution,' 1879, ‘Commerce and Navigation,' 1880, Penal Code, California,' 1881, a Treatise on Criminal Law in 1882.
“ In that year the wide and excellent reputation given by his' Federal Procedure' and other national works opened for him the position of editor of the Federal Reporter, and led to his removal to St. Paul. While there his 'Treatise on Taxation,' in two volumes, was published, 1884. After several years of editorial labor in Minnesota he identified himself with the Lawyer's Co-Operative Publishing Co., and moved to Rochester, N. Y."
An experience of much moment to him, which left its effects upon him for the remainder of his life, was his election, while in California, as State senator for the district comprising the counties of San Francisco and San Mateo. Although he received a majority of the votes at that election, he was refused his seat in the senate, on the ground that he was not a citizen. He had never obtained naturalization papers until after the election, but claimed to be a citizen on the grounds, first, that he was a resident of California at the time of its admission into the Union, and thus became a citizen of the State, and second, that he was a citizen by virtue of his mother's marriage after he became of age to a citizen of the United States. The injustice and wrong, as he felt it, of his rejection by the State senate, rankled in his memory, and made him especially bitter toward the politicians of both the leading political
parties of the nation, and to some extent, at least, embittered the last years of his life.
After coming to Rochester, Mr. Desty was for a time the editor of the Western Reporter, and later took up the work of annotation on the Lawyers' Reports Annotated. For volumes 1 to 13 (1888–91) of this series he had the sole charge of the annotation, and himself prepared a very large proportion of it. Thereafter he turned his attention to the preparation of the work on Contract Law, which he intended to be his magnum opus, and upon which he was engaged for the four years preceding and almost up to the time of his death. This was to be an elaborate and comprehensive treatise upon the subject in all its branches. A considerable part of the work was in plates when he was obliged by acute illness to discontinue work, the balance for the most part either complete in manuscript or in such advanced state of preparation as to render it possible for another taking it up to fully carry out the author's plan.
Not many men leave behind them so many volumes of legal writings. A recent writer in the New York Law Journal says of Mr. Desty that “he made himself the text-book maker par excellence of the United States Courts," and adds that he had a genius for condensation. The terseness and clearness of his style have often received compliments from lawyers and judges of the highest rank. Nature was very liberal to him. He had a physical constitution of great strength, & mind that was keen, active, and vigorous. In addition to this he had much refinement of nature which was not extinguished by the somewhat unfavorable circumstances of his youth or by the rough experiences of life on the Pacific coast in the early days. The numerous works from his hands, in daily use by lawyers and judges, will, for a long time to come, keep his name prominent, while many who knew him personally will always remember him with kindly feelings.
ABOUT THE LAW SCHOOLS. Within a few months a revised catalogue of The Legal Fraternity of Phi Delta Phi will be issued. Said Order has about 4,000 members, most of whom are graduates of the leading twenty-two Law Schools of the United States and Canada. Each member of said Fraternity to whom these presents shall come, is hereby requested to write to the Secretary, Geo. A. Katzenberger, at Greenville, Darke Co., Ohio, giving him necessary data for said catalogue.
RECEIVERS' CERTIFICATES: SOMETHING ABOUT A CASE WHICH HAS BEEN SEVERELY CRITICISED. - It will be noticed, by reference to a recent work, that the manuscript decision of the late Federal District Judge Longyear, in Sutherland v. Lake Shore &c. R. Co., was severely criticised by the Supreme Court of Alabama in a case where the latter court went at great length into the subject of the power of a court to
15 Thomp. Corp., $ 7176.
order the issue of receivers' certificates. Since that was put in print, our attention has been drawn to the fact that the order in the Sutherland case was obtained by Hon. Alfred Russell, on the authority of the Kennedy case, decided by Judge Dillon, and elsewhere referred to in the same chapter of the same work. It also appears that, as in the Kennedy case, the order was obtained in the Sutherland case, to save an impending forfeiture of a land grant of immense value, and that the Supreme Court of the United States approved the order on that ground.?
MR. JUSTICE PECKHAM.— The President sent to the Senate, as the successor of the late Justice Howell E. Jackson, the name of Rufus W. Peckham, of New York, and the Senate confirmed the nomination without opposition. The appointee was, at the time of his appointment, and had been for a number of years, a justice of the Court of Appeals of New York. He is the son of a justice of the same court of the same name, who lost his life on board the unfortunate French steamship Ville du Havre which collided in midocean, in November, 1873, with the ship Loch Earn. His elder and only brother, Wheeler H. Peckham, a practitioner at the bar of New York City, was nominated by the President two years ago to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Justice Lamar, but failed of confirmation through the opposition in the Senate of that wretched politician, David B. Hill. When the present Justice Peckham was first elected to the Court of Appeals of New York there were misgivings, among the legal profession in that State, as to his fitness for the position, growing out of the fact that he had been distinguished as an advocate rather than as a technical lawyer. We did not share in those misgivings, but we pointed out in this publication other instances in which lawyers, whose chief distinction had been in the line of advocacy, had become distinguished on the bench. This proved true of Judge Peckham, whose work on the bench developed a directness of thought, a comprehension of legal principles, a capacity for legal reasoning, and a clearness of expression, which go far to make up any deficiency of technical learning, if indeed there had been any such deficiency in his case. His mind had been enlarged by travel
15 Thomp. Corp., § 7178, et seq.
2 Jerome v. McCarter, 94 U. S. 734, 738. The language of Mr. Justice Strong, in giving the opinion of the court, is: “ The order was necessary alike for the lien creditors and for the
mortgagors.” An unreported decision of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts has also been referred to as having been used by Mr. Russell in obtaining the order from Judge Longyear, in the Sutherland case.
abroad and by political studies outside of the domain of mere legal research,m-studies which broaden the intellect and fit a man for the office of judge in a court of last resort, almost as much as mere technical legal learning in his profession. In the protrait of Mr. Justice Peckham, which we elsewhere publish in this number, our readers will discover a striking resemblance to Mr. Chief Justice Fuller. Perhaps their physical is not stronger than their mental resemblance. Before becoming judges they were both distinguished as orators. Mr. Justice Peckham had founded a substantial reputation as a jury lawyer; and one of the best speeches of the kind, which we ever remember listening to, was made by Mr. Chief Justice Fuller, then a member of the Chicago Bar, in the Democratic Convention of 1876, held in the Chamber of Commerce Building in St. Louis, seconding the nomination of Governor Hendricks for the presidency. It is safe to predict for Mr. Justice Peckham an honorable, if not a distinguished career.
CONTRACTING IN ADVANCE TO RELINQUISH RIGHTS OF ACTION FOR PHYSICAL INJURIES. - The decision of the Supreme Court of Illinois, to which we alluded in a former number of this REVIEW,1 was not so injurious to the working classes by reason of what it actually decided, as by the obvious judicial tendency which it exhibited and illustrated. Taking advantage of what it is assumed that court will decide in future, one of the great Chicago corporations, the Illinois Steel Company, has imposed upon the parents of its minor employés a contract by the terms of which, as described in a press dispatch, the father or mother of
any minor working in the mills and foundries of the steel company binds himself or herself to relinquish all rights over the services of the child and surrender all rights before the law to sue for and recover damages from the company for the loss of such child's services through injury or death in the mills. And such is the ironclad provision of this document that this exemption from damage is made binding, even though the maiming or death is directly traceable to the criminal negligence of the company or its employés. Doubtless every corporation employing minors will impose upon their parents similar contracts, and we shall in time see whether the public policy of Illinois will allow parents to make contracts in advance which estop themselves from claiming damages in case their children are maimed or murdered through the negligence of corporations.
1 23 Am. Law Rev. 766.
A PROFESSIONAL VIEW OF THE STANFORD CASE.- A learned correspondent writes to us as follows: “Before I had seen your comments upon the decision of the United States Court of Appeals in the Stanford case, I read the decision, and the error in the major premiss struck me, not at once, but on the second reading; the error being, as you point out, that Congress intended or did not intend to hold the stockholders individually liable. Of course, if the United States is to be regarded as an individual creditor, and for the life of me I cannot see how it can be otherwise regarded, then the intent of Congress when the debt was contracted is immaterial ; or perhaps it would be better to say that it will be conclusively presumed Congress intended to collect the debt in
THE PERALTA-REAVIS LAND CLAIM.— This claim, which, until last year, had been pending in the courts of the United States for some twenty years, has a history which is believed to outrival anything in fable or romance concerning lawsuits. The story is briefly told in the Attorney-General's report, but we hope in a future number to give our readers a fuller account of it: “In October, 1892,” says the report, "James Addison Peralta-Reavis and Loreto Micarla de Peralta-Reavis, nee Maso y Silva de Peralta de la Cordoba (husband and wife) sued in the Court of Private Land Claims for confirmation of a grant alleged to have been made by Spain in 1758 to one Miguel Peralta, Baron of Arizona, Knight of the Colorados, grandee of Spain, etc., covering 12,740,000 acres of land in Arizona and New Mexico, including the land on which are situated Phønix, the capital of Arizona, the towns of Florence, Tempe, Casa Grande, Globe, Silver King, Pinal and Solomonville, and a portion of the White Mountain or San Carlos Indian reservation. The title to this land had been investigated and pronounced perfect by eminent counsel employed by the petitioners, and as a result many persons and corporations throughout the United States had acquired interests therein as purchasers from the plaintiffs.” In support of the gigantic claim it was averred that the original grant had been recommended by Philip V. of Spain in 1744, and by his successor, Fernando VI., in 1748; that it had actually been made by the Viceroy of New Spain in 1748 and ratified thereafter. It was alleged that possession had been given to the grantee in 1758, and that the female petitioner was his heir. A number of certificates and authorized
1 See 29 Am. L. Rev. 926; also Id. 617.